Saturday, April 22, 2017

Durango, part 2

As you might have guessed from our first post, Durango is all about beer. Having six major craft breweries (Carver, Durango, Brew Pub & Kitchen, Animas, Ska, and Steamworks) in a town of less than 20,000 people is pretty incredible; it speaks to the tourist area that Durango has become. To those ends, our family set up shop in the Strater Hotel. The Strater opened in 1887 as a grandiose hotel (which sucks up the better part of a modern block) offering comfort to well-to-do ranchers, traveling businessmen, and Wild West authors. It also houses two drinking establishments: the famed Diamond Belle Saloon and the quieter Office Spiritorium.

Before we got our drink on, though, we had to get something to chew on for supper. So we walked the two blocks from the Strater to Steamworks Brewing Company. Steamworks features a huge beer hall/dining hall plastered with kitschy cartoon art, historical pictures of the Old West, and drink advertisements; the crowd was so large, it spilled to the tables on the balcony behind the eatery.

We started with their feature beers; Cindy ordered a Backside Stout and I got a Ginger Ninja. The Backside Stout is easily Steamworks’ best beer. In a pint glass, it is dark as chocolate and has flavor hints of the same. Its head retention wasn’t as solid as its lacing, but looked good going down. The flavor was everything Cindy likes- sweet upfront, chocolate malt in the middle and finishing with a touch coffee bitterness. The Ginger Ninja, however, was pretty awful. I rarely pan anything in the FWL (I just don’t write about it), but you really don’t need the Ginger Ninja in your mouth. It was a flat shandy, an jumbled combination of wheat and ginger that fought each other for supremacy, neither of which won. I quickly replaced the Ninja with a Lizard Head Red, a clear amber-red brew that gave off scents of rock candy and a bit of citrus. The Lizard Head’s aroma was its best characteristic, however, because it really didn’t present much flavor- it was thin, somewhat sweet and overall blah. Lucky for Steamworks, their cajun boils and burgers are great, because we’d probably just rather head back to Carver to drink beer.

But since it was getting late, we went back to the Strater to tuck in the kids. After they were snug in their beds, we went down to give the two hotel bars a try. We started in the Diamond Belle, where a raucous crowd was being entertained by an old-school saloon pianist who was banging away on the keys with fervent gusto. We ordered cocktails from a dancing-girl-coiffured waitress who, like in the Wild West days, was far too busy being flattered by amorous and drunken patrons at the bar than to serve our table with promptness. I surmised that the bartenders were a bit suspect as well, so my cocktail was a simple one.

Drink: Bustamonte 1957
Establishment: Diamond Belle Saloon
Location: Durango, Colorado
First Connoisseur: Holly

1 ½ ounces Colorado whiskey
3 ounces grapefruit juice
½ ounce real grenadine

Build all ingredients in the order presented in an old-fashioned glass pre-filled with ice. Stir gently to combine grenadine. Garnish with a swath of lemon or grapefruit peel.

After drinking the Bustamonte 1957, the piano player still had a tune or two in him, so we ordered one of the Belle’s Colorado whiskey flights. The flight was tasty trio of Stranahan’s straight whiskey (one of our all-time faves), Beckenridge malt mash, and Peach Street small batch. Each of the whiskeys were very pleasant, with Beckenridge’s offering leading the flight.

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